Sunday, October 24, 2010

Five Lessons Learned From This Year’s Pumpkin Patch Experience

Last weekend my husband and I took our daughter to a pumpkin patch. Our experience taught us some lessons for next year’s visit.

Lesson #1: Don’t choose a Saturday afternoon on the only open football weekend of the month when you live in a college town.
When we arrived we were overwhelmed at the line. It wrapped around the barn and went the length of the farm. Last year we went one afternoon mid week, and it never occurred to us to do the same this year. It was a gorgeous day and heading there last Saturday sounded like a terrific idea. We must be getting dumber due to the amount of sleep we’ve missed over the last two years.

Lesson #2: Don’t make small talk with the other people in line. You have absolutely nowhere to escape.
My husband and I took turns running around with our daughter while the other stood in line. When it was my turn to wait I turned to the guy behind me and said hello out of sheer boredom. Big mistake. I learned more than I could ever want to know about the self-proclaimed fantastic father with perfect children. I know his son is the “toughest boy in middle school” because he kept playing football through a broken arm. And his daughter is a “brilliant sophomore who has already been asked to take the SAT from Duke University.” His kids’ highlights list went on and on until he stopped to point out that my daughter was being difficult. “Hey, isn’t that your family?” he asked. I spotted my daughter plop down on the ground in frustration and my husband try to coax her to stand up. He would go to pick her up, and she’d respond by going limp. Classic.

Lesson #3: Don’t talk an experience up so much to a toddler who expects immediate gratification.
Part of the delay was because we were all in one big trying-to-stay-happy line. Regardless of what you and your family were or weren’t doing, we all were stuck in the same line together. Once we made it to the front and paid we were directed to the second hayride only line. I'm not even kidding. This line required more creative diversion since we could actually watch people get on and off their hayride. I had to pull out my break-glass-in-case-of-emergency snack.

Lesson #4: Pack more snacks.
We'd had apple slices and string cheese on the way to the farm and honestly had no idea we’d have to wait for so long. I worried when I pulled out the rice cake from my bag knowing that was it. We were nearing dinnertime by now and hadn’t even made it on the wagon yet. Fortunately, once we were at the pumpkin patch, the hundreds of gorgeous pumpkins took my daughter’s freakishly amazing internal clock mind off the fact that it was after 6:00 p.m.

Lesson #5: Stay away from the crazies!
Despite the ridiculous wait we had a fantastic time. My daughter ran around the patch giggling and selected the best pumpkin. When we got in our third and final back to the farm hayride line we heard a lady shouting.

Surrounded by her nervous-looking husband and three children (God help those children.) she was furious at the teenage tractor driver, who was maintaining the farm’s no ticket, no pumpkin policy. Besides her ridiculous ranting I couldn’t help but notice she’d selected white high heel sandals to coordinate with skin-tight jeans she’d rolled up mid-calf. Classy. First of all who wears heels to a pumpkin patch? And secondly, I don’t care what Stacy and Clinton say, white shoes after Labor Day is just all kinds of wrong. But her attire was really the least of our concerns.

It didn’t take us long to learn she had “lost” her pumpkin tickets. There they stood; both she and her husband had a pumpkin and each kid had one, yet no one had a ticket. The crazy lady then began dropping F-bombs. “I’m not leavin’ here without these f-ing pumpkins! I paid for these f-ing pumpkins!” We were fortunate to be up for the next wagon and hustled to climb on board. I worried our daughter who likes to mimic just about everything would pick up that word. I wouldn’t know how to explain to her grandparents or teachers if she said she got an f-ing pumpkin at the pumpkin patch. Fortunately, she was oblivious to the scene.

This entire week I’ve worried about the crazy lady’s kids and wondered if they ever got a pumpkin. I’ve doubted but hoped that woman was horrified and ashamed of her behavior. And I’ve wondered if she put away those hideous shoes.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

TO DO: Stop With the Clark W. Griswold-Like Expectations

My husband finds my occasional grandiose and unrealistic expectations (or as he likes to call it, my "Clark W. Griswold Syndrome") both humorous and frustrating. I can't blame him, so do I. If you don't know Clark W. Griswold, you should. Check out Chevy Chase's character in Christmas Vacation and the original National Lampoon's Vacation. I think you can do without watching the rest.

I suppose it does happen to me more than I’d like to admit. Take yesterday afternoon for example. It was a beautiful Friday afternoon. The weather was perfect, and I'd called my husband to try to sell him on changing our evening plans. I didn’t want to waste the fantastic fall day with him going home to mow and my daughter and me grocery shopping. He agreed that we would meet at home, change clothes, let our dog out and then go for an early dinner and to choose a few pumpkins. It was October 1 after all.

Smiling from ear to ear, I pulled into my daughter's school eager to get my hands on my sweet girl and already coming up with some good, kid-friendly patio options. I quickly realized that she had some evening plans of her own and was not at all interested in anything other than going and staying home. Perfect. I'd already imagined her running around the pumpkins and selecting a few to sit proudly on our front porch and await being carved in the next few weeks. I could also throw out my visions of a wonderful salad topped with a piece of perfectly grilled salmon, some great bread with butter and a nice glass of wine.

My husband came home and tried to salvage the beginning of the weekend. By then, his two girls were not in the best of moods. (I'll save you the specifics.) Our changed plans ended up being a productive evening of cleaning the house while our daughter watched Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. (I will admit a little anxiety when I realized my loving husband had purchased the Choo Choo Express episode from iTunes while I had secretly been counting down the days for that one to be removed from On Demand.) We ate pizza, and I at least I did have vino, even if it did have to come from the box in my own kitchen.

Other examples of my Clark W. Griswold-like behavior include when I decided she and I would bake and decorate cupcakes. She’s not even two years old yet so the kitchen and both of us ended up covered in the batter, the icing and sprinkles. Or when I bought the huge 32 count sidewalk chalk and imagined our beautiful driveway art. She made one, two-inch mark and was finished but somehow managed to have it all over herself. There was also the time I couldn't resist the overpriced, but precious and washable stuffed lovie, even after my daughter showed no interest whatsoever.

I agree that it's something I need to work on. I think I'll be fine until December when it'll be time to "[kick] off our fun old fashion family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Outwitted by the Toddler Once Again

I promised myself that my daughter would take a good nap in her crib this afternoon. Famous last words. Everything started well. She dined of broccoli, a sweet potato and half of an apple at a proper 11:50 a.m. After lunch she washed her hands, I changed her diaper and gave her her pacis (Yes, plural pacis. She sucks on one and holds the other in her hand. I know, I know. Don't judge.) I asked if she was ready to rest, and she replied quickly and enthusiastically, "Yes!" My husband and I looked at each other in disbelief, but hey, we always have hope. She had her pillow, special blanket, both lovies and the sound of the ocean playing in the background. All was right with the world. She went down without one word of protest. Amazing!

That lasted about 15 minutes.

My husband had gone outside to wash our cars, and I'd intended to update my blog. (So sorry I've been such a slacker lately.) I did get the table cleaned off and the dishes stacked in the sick, but I'd just sat down to begin typing when I first heard her call for me. Perfect. I'd not had the opportunity to write at all, and we all know the quality of sleep at night depends on how well a child sleeps during the day. So I went into her room, covered her back up, told her I loved her and that it was nap time and left. Cries rang out before I even made it out of the room, but I stayed strong and kept on going without looking back. I waited the first five minutes (probably more like four and a half, but who's counting) through constant cries and went back in to repeat the covering, patting, assuring my love, etc. and left again determined that she would eventually sleep. I. Never. Learn.

My husband and I have gone back and forth with multiple cry it out methods, but truth be told, we're weak. We don't have excellent follow through when it comes our daughter being upset. And I'll admit that most of the time it's my fault. I know she needs to be able to console herself, she should be able to nap independently and she should not be able to manipulate this well so soon; however, I really have a tough time when she's crying for me. I want her to know that no matter what I'll always be there for her. Always. I don't want to think she needs something or someone and I've just left her there trapped in her crib to deal. She's not even two years old yet. But I also know she gets her way entirely too often, and it worries me because again, she's not even two yet.

To save you the details of the drama today, just imagine the scenario going on for nearly an hour with me playing my role every eight to 10 minutes. Determined to prove that I was the boss I finally went back in to lay her down again and firmly explained that she would nap today. She stopped crying and looked at me as if she understood I finally meant business. I told her I loved her again and left. Silence. I smiled and walked back to the computer in the family room. Still nothing. This went on for about seven minutes. I sat in front of my computer and waited. I assumed she was asleep at last. Ahhhh. Peace. But then, I thought, I hope she's okay. I had to make sure she was still breathing. (I know. I have issues.) It'd been enough time. I could tiptoe in to put my hand on her chest just to make sure she was fine. I walked with a mission, purposefully missing each creaky spot on our living room floor. I tiptoed forward, and just before I turned the hallway to get to her room I heard a soft, sweet voice, "Mommy, I love you. I love you, Mommy." I froze. What? I had not made one peep! And then again, "Mommy.....Mommy, I love you." I melted and knew it was over. My white flag might as well have been tossed into the air. She was already standing up and smiling, holding her blanket, extra paci, pillow and both lovies. (The girl can use those small hands like a champion!) She got her way. Again. I picked her up, gave her a hug and kisses, and we went to the rocker to snuggle.

I feel like such a loser, but I still have hope that tonight will be a good night.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Momma on the Edge

Things have been quite hectic at work over the last couple of weeks. I’ve planned two days of research events, managed a fund-raiser, moved offices and interviewed for new jobs at work after a restructure within my department. My Type A perfectionism and control issues have created one large and long rollercoaster ride and have made me a momma on the edge. I’ve obviously put in more hours at work. I’m okay with a late night or early morning here and there; it’s all part of the job. These two weeks, however, have required me to miss my baby girl. A lot. It’s tough when she’s asleep before I get home and when I have to leave before she wakes up. It's especially difficult for someone like me who already struggles with the guilt. I’m such a passionate person that what I’m feeling (the good, the bad and the ugly) almost always finds a way to make it to the surface. To top it off, my daughter’s been a complete daddy’s girl lately. Normally, it’s pretty 50/50 for us, but recently she’s been her daddy’s all the way. That’s been extremely tough. I love and respect my husband so very much for the man he is and for the father he’s become. We are truly a great team, but I'd be dishonest if I told you I wasn't jealous. I know how fortunate I am to have him in my life, and I’m obviously thrilled she adores her father. But when she says no to me and reaches for him, it’s a killer.

A friend once told me that one of the most difficult things to do as a mother is to not allow your mood to be determined by your child’s mood or by his or her behavior. I shrugged it off like most pieces of advice so many people have been so eager to share. I should have asked more questions about how one manages to do that. From early on that’s something I’ve struggled with. When she’s sick, I feel terrible as well. When she’s happy, I’m overjoyed. When she’s fussy, I’m just a little grumpy too. It’s hard (almost impossible really) for me to not be affected by what’s going on with her. She is my entire world.

It can also work the other way. While I’ve really tried not to show how consumed I’ve been about work, she’s a smart girl and has sensed my stress. Who wants to be around someone so uptight? Me either. Don’t get me wrong we’ve had our fair share of fun, but it’s not been the same. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to stay completely in the moment at home. Until tonight I haven’t been able to let it go. Granted, my research events and the fund-raiser have all been completed and were successful. I’m sure that’s part of it, but tomorrow I will find out my future with my organization. What will it be? No idea. What I do know is that as long as my family is happy and healthy that’s what’s most important. Tonight was the best night my sweet baby girl, my super supportive husband and I have had lately. We all played and sang and danced and read stories. That’s what it’s all about. My favorite moment tonight was when she laughed and described me as, “Silly Mommy!” Lesson learned. I’ll try to not beat myself up too badly over what I’ve missed by feeling so overwhelmed and focus on doing better. I just hope I can regroup a little sooner next time. As for tomorrow, feel free to say a prayer, light a candle or send a good vibe or two my way. But do know this: whatever happens, my little family and I, we’ll be just fine.

Friday, August 20, 2010

"Mirror, mirror on the wall, I am my mother after all."

I saw this saying on a sign this week, and it made me smile because it's so true. It's not that turning into my mother is a bad thing. My mom is fantastic; she's a wonderful mother and an amazing grandmother. A true lady. It's just ironic when I catch myself doing, saying or thinking the things that used to drive me crazy when I was a kid.

Here's my current top 10 list of things that show I'm slowly but surely becoming my mom:

1) I don't really function very well until I've had a cup or two of coffee every morning.
2) I reminisce about the days when a gallon of gas was less than a dollar.
3) I've become a cheerleader for team fruits and vegetables.
4) I believe fast food restaurants are the devil.
5) I'm impressed when I'm still awake after 11:00 p.m. Sigh.
6) I remember when a little cough or sneeze was just a little cough or sneeze.
7) I haven't said it out loud, but I've definitely thought: if this child doesn't hush I could give her something to cry about!
8) I'm constantly frustrated with "kids these days" and their lack of customer service.
9) I've made good friends with the crockpot.
10) As much as I hate to admit it I've licked my finger to "clean" my baby girl's face. I know, I know.

I actually hope I can become half as successful as my mother. I mean look at how incredible I've turned out! :) And my sister's pretty okay too. :) The truth is if someone ever thought I was like my mother it would be a huge compliment to me. She is the best woman I know. Loving. Beautiful. Smart. Selfless. Growing up, she constantly put her family's needs before her own. Before having a chid of my own I could never understand why she always preferred to go without in order for us to have more. Now, I know. It's no longer about me whatsoever.

"I didn't listen to her because she was my mother & wouldn't know anything until I was much older."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hmmm...Time-outs really aren't working like I'd planned

So I have this sweet baby girl who likes to live on the edge. Among other things she's a climber. And she's ridiculously fast for someone so small. Her favorite thing to climb is the furniture and then she proceeds to pretend it's a trampoline. (No wonder I already need a touch up to cover this gray hair!)

Since she really isn't concerned about the dangers of cracking her head open on the hardwood floors or breaking any bones rationalization doesn't help. So my husband and I are now sending her to time-out. The funny thing is (well, it's not too funny) she really doesn't care. She either blows kisses to the wall (imagine a very dramatic "Muah! Muah!") or she passionately declares her love for us ("I love you, Mommy! Daddy, I love you!") or she plays the drums on the floor to pass her whopping one minute and 45 seconds of time. According to the "experts" the length of a time-out should match a child's actual age. We can't just leave her there until it makes a stronger impression. Can we?

She'll tell us no when we ask if she wants to go to time-out, and after a warning we do follow through with the time-out. But it's just not working. Tonight, she actually put herself in time-out before I even had time to say a word. She had a very covert exit strategy out of the family room, right into the living room and immediately onto the couch. I suppose it was worth it to her to get one or two good jumps in before I pulled her down. Wow! I have to give the girl props for tenacity, but at 19 months. Seriously? I guess it's time for a new plan.

Friday, August 6, 2010

I'm feeling a little needy...

*I need a maid and a dog walker.
*I need for this month and fiscal year at work to be over.
*I need more hours in the day.
*I need better birth control options.
*I need my child's daycare to know that it's "If you're happy and you know it" instead of "If your happy and you know it". I know she's just a toddler, but still.
*I need to take a few things less seriously.
*I need a really good night's rest. Two in a row would be fabulous!
*I need to learn to say "no" more often.
*I need a date night with my husband.
*I need to find a good babysitter so I can have a date night with my husband.
*I need to remember that life is always a work in progress.
*I need to learn to let go of the guilt.
*I need to get my dirty laundry clean and my clean laundry put away.
*I need to find a church.
*I need to remember Ferris Bueller's advice: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while you might miss it."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How do I raise my little princess without her thinking she’s a little princess?

Yesterday I had a very difficult time getting my sweet baby girl up and at ‘em. It’s amazing how her internal clock recognizes when the weekend’s here, because she never fails to wake up between 6:30 and 6:45am every Saturday and Sunday. During the week she struggles with getting it into gear. (She definitely takes this after her father.) This particular morning she screamed and cried and buried her head into her blanket and repeated one of her favorite words, “No!” After singing to her, rubbing her back and talking sweetly and positively about the day I eventually turned to our dog, Shelby, and asked her if she’d like to go out to play. To this, my daughter jumped up and down and shrieked, “Yay! Outside! Outside!” So the good news was she was up and happy about it. The bad news was our upcoming time management challenge. How in the world could we go out to swing, eat breakfast, wash her face and hands, brush her teeth, change her diaper again, apply sunscreen, get her dressed for school, brush her hair and get her shoes on...all on time? Impossible, right? So, what did I do? Well of course I took my princess outside to swing.

She had a fabulous time until we had to come back inside to begin our mad dash to get ready for the day. Needless to say, she wasn’t ready to go in, and the screaming began again. I pulled her from the swing and got her inside and into her highchair. Our go to breakfast fix is yogurt and dry Cheerios. She really does love yogurt…except for this particular morning. She pushed the bowl away from her and sent her spoon flying through the air and across the table slinging a little yogurt onto our hardwood floor. (Thank goodness for Shelby who promptly takes care of those little spills here and there.) I calmly explained that that was not nice girl behavior, picked up the spoon, and put it in the sink. Next, my baby girl changed her mind and decided the yogurt looked pretty good. I caved and gave it back to her. What kind of mother would I be to send my daughter to school without eating breakfast? I know they offer breakfast daily, but what if it’s something she won’t like?

After coaxing her to hustle a little with that bowl of yogurt and preparing the dry Cheerios in a container that she could travel to school with, we made it into the bathroom. There, we wrestled with the toothbrush. (She has hers, and I have mine for her; she brushes a while, and I brush them a while. My daughter’s nothing if she’s not independent.) My version of “This is the way we...” was a tad rushed, but we still managed to get her hands and face washed appropriately. Finally, it was time to get dressed. How does a 19-month-old have an opinion about her daily outfit? I have no idea, but it’s already happening at my house. These days, I’m giving her two options, and so far that’s working. I threw on her shoes, handed her the Cheerios to go, showered her with hugs and kisses, and off she went with her daddy to school. Whew!

I feel like I’m giving in to her wants and wishes entirely too often, but we have limited time together in the mornings and at night. I want the time we do have together to be pleasant and fun, but I have to balance that with the fact that I’m still the mama and in charge. I do want my baby girl to be blissfully happy, but I don’t want to raise a spoiled brat princess. I definitely don’t want to squelch her enthusiastic, bold, brilliant independence; however, I cannot allow her to be so demanding. There’s a very fine line, and I’m not sure where to draw it. I haven't even mentioned my challenge with not being able to control the situation. I'm taking it day by day.

What's working or what has worked for you? 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Where have all of my sick days gone?

Picture this. You’re in the doctor’s office for the umpteenth time this month. Your concern is why your child continues to pick up every single thing that comes and goes. As you wait you can’t imagine having to wrestle with a 19-month-old and a syringe full of medicine again, but you dread the thought that it may be a virus that can be helped by nothing except time. You replay the days ensuring that you’ve relentlessly washed hands and wiped off shopping carts and wonder why this continues to happen. You have legitimate concern over how many doses of antibiotics one child can take without ruining her teeth. (Can that really happen by the way?) After the diagnosis of yet another infection the doctor says, “She is in daycare, right?” But it’s really more of a statement than a question. They’ve seen you enough to know you on a first name basis. You sigh and nod, sitting there feeling a combination of utter frustration and guilt.

My daughter has been enrolled in two daycares. Both, while not perfect, (what is?) have been extremely clean. I would know; I’m a tad obsessive about things like that. I’ve watched teachers work tirelessly to keep kids’ hands washed and pick up toys that have made it into mouths. Still, I’ve made enough $25 co-pays for sick doctor visits to have added a small fortune to my sweet baby’s college fund. Regardless of which doctor we see or the diagnosis, daycare seems to always be the culprit according to the MD.

Is daycare really always to blame? Are the other toddlers this sick too and am I just not paying enough attention? My daughter has caught the normal virus here and there, had tonsillitis a couple of times, a few bouts with croup, RSV, hand, foot and mouth disease (who knew that this is actually real?), ear infection after ear infection which ultimately resulted in the addition of ear tubes and the removal of adenoids, bronchitis, pink eye, crazy fevers and the list goes on and on. My guilt continues to multiply with each ailment and doctor visit. The assumption is, even if it’s indirect, that because I choose to work outside the home my child will be sick. I hate the feeling that I have somehow brought this on her. I wonder if the doctor truly believes this too or if I’m just that paranoid. I obviously don’t choose my job over my child. Working is my reality, and the truth is I enjoy what I do and am proud of it. Don’t get me wrong. If I suddenly won the lottery (too bad I don’t play) I would stay at home. Well, not at home exactly, my daughter and I would do lunch and visit museums and the zoo and parks and shop everyday. And I’d make an excellent volunteer. But, again, that’s not my reality, so we’ll just do all of those wonderful things on the weekends.

To keep my sanity I’ve researched and read repeatedly that quality daycares help children learn, become more social and overall be more well-rounded individuals. If you’ve heard otherwise please be kind and just keep that to yourself. As for me, I’ll keep moving forward, building even better relationships with everyone at my pediatric office and local pharmacy. And I’ll know that in a few years my child will develop a superhero resistance to germs and will most likely receive a perfect attendance award in kindergarten.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mmmm...that 30 minute meal sounds great; too bad I don't have any groceries.

I'm a foodie. I love to cook, and I love to eat. I used to make a lot of things from scratch--salad dressings, pizza dough, pasta sauces, pesto, granola, different types of rubs, salsa, and I made most of my daughter's baby food. It was my hobby, and I'd laugh at the Sandra Lee/Semi-Homemade way wondering who in their right mind would use taco seasoning mix. Ha! I've recently discovered that taco seasoning mix can help me make some good and fast fish tacos.

My evenings have gone from cooking something wonderful and sitting down to late dinners with my husband to managing to get something on the table as close to 6pm as possible. My daughter's head starts to spin around by about 6:15pm, and there's no cheddar slice or apple wedge that will tide her over. The girl knows the difference between a snack and a meal. It's in her blood.

I know I'll eventually go back to making more from scratch, but for now I’m in dinner survival mode. What can I make that's nutritious, good, different, fast and easy? And what do I have in the fridge and pantry? When did actually making it to the grocery store once a week become such a challenge?

As I’m figuring my way through the “semi-homemade” way I’ve learned a few tricks. Here’s a quick list of a few things I’d never buy before but that have now found their way into my world and onto my grocery list…whenever I can actually make it to the store.

1) Frozen pizza dough (especially Real NY Pizza Dough) is good, and you just need to set it out before you head to work.
2) Paul Newman's Own Balsamic Vinaigrette isn't the goodness of homemade, but it'll do.
3) Prewashed lettuce/salad bags are a must. (If you ever want to eat a salad again it’s worth the extra cost.)
4) Frozen cheese and spinach ravioli (Did you know you can use this to make a quick lasagna? It’s true!)
5) Uncle Ben’s Whole Grain Ready Rice (90 seconds in the microwave really beats an hour on the stove.)

I love the quote: "Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life." Right now, my time is better spent outside of the kitchen.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Oh how I thought I was busy...before I had a child

I'm working like a mad woman to be the best mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and employee that I can be. That's really all I know how to do because I'm a Type A personality with a pretty hard core competitive spirit. I'm learning though (slowly but surely) that balance is the key, but I just haven't quite mastered that part yet. If another woman stood before me and told me that you can be a fantastic, dedicated mother, have a strong marriage with the fires still burning, be at the top of your field, manage multiple, true friendships, stay in shape, have a spotless home and prepare delicious and healthy meals for your family and still come out truly happy, I'd smile and say, "Congratulations!" (because I'm a polite, southern lady like that), but I'd know she was lying. Unless she had a staff of about 12 of course.

Can you have it all? A true, harmonic work/life balance in the 21st century? I want it least I think I do. And I wake up every day trying to achieve it. What I'm learning, however, is that sometimes you have to let a thing or two go, including the guilt, and just be happy.

Thanks for joining me on my journey, and please share your advice and stories along the way. Maybe we can help each other make things a little less momplicated and get better at this crazy wonderful juggling act called life.